Meniere’s Disease & Syndrome

Mé·nière's Dis·ease

Meniere’s is a disorder that produces a group of symptoms: sudden attacks of whirling dizziness, tinnitus or head noise, a feeling of pressure or fullness in the ear, and a fluctuating hearing loss. A cause of these symptoms will sometimes be found, such as a benign tumor of the balance nerve. Usually, no cause will be discovered and a person will be told they have Meniere’s disease. While the cause of this disease or syndrome is unknown, it is believed to result from an increase in the fluid pressure in the inner ear. The disorder affects about 5 in ten thousand people, most of whom are over the age of 35. While one ear is usually affected about one in four people have it in both ears. A typical attack begins with fullness and pressure along with decreased hearing in one ear. Vertigo rapidly follows, reaching a maximum intensity within minutes and then slowly subsiding over the next several hours. Tinnitus or head noise may persist between episodes but usually increases in intensity just before or during an acute attack.

An attack may last from hours to days and vary in frequency from every few weeks to every few years. Depending on the number of attacks, a gradual loss of hearing in the affected ear or ears can occur. As the disease progresses, the loss in hearing can get worse. Because the symptoms of Meniere’s vary from one person to another, the treatment varies as well. A person with Meniere’s disease will eventually discover that a number of medical as well as surgical therapies are promoted by individual ear specialists. It is important to remember that much like high blood pressure, there is no known cure but there is effective treatment.

Medical Therapy

Because many, if not most, Meniere’s sufferers are sensitive to sodium intake our first recommendation is to follow a low sodium diet by restricting their sodium to less than 2000 milligrams a day. A diuretic (“die-you-ret-tick”) or water pill is also prescribed. The purpose of the diet and medicine is to reduce the excess fluid pressure in the inner ear that is thought to cause the symptoms of Meniere’s disease. Stimulants such as caffeine, chocolate and nicotine are known to increase the intensity of tinnitus and should be avoided. Most people with Meniere’s disease have found that an increase in the stress of daily living can bring on an attack. Stress reduction can often lower the number and severity of attacks. Exercise, medications, and attention to your diet are very important in helping control the symptoms of Meniere’s disease.

A simple pressure device called a MeniettTM may be prescribed for you by PENTA physicians. In addition to medications prescribed this device can help control the vertigo attacks associated with Meniere’s disease.

Surgical Therapy

Although 2 out of 3 people who suffer from Meniere’s will respond to medical therapy, surgery may be suggested if medical treatment doesn’t relieve your symptoms. The type of surgery we recommend takes into consideration the person’s age, overall health, their major symptoms, and severity of hearing loss. Intratympanic injection therapy, the injection of medicines directly into the ear, is a very effective way to treat the dizziness and hearing loss associated with Meniere’s disease. More invasive surgery, including endolymphatic-mastoid (“en-doe-lim-fat-tick-mast-toyd”) shunt, vestibular neurectomy and labyrinthectomy (“lab-rinth-eck-toe-me”) operations can also be helpful in permanently controlling the dizziness associated with Meniere’s disease.

For more information visit the Vestibular Disorders Association web site: vestibular.org

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